Is it in or is it out? Or, is there a "third" public option to
consider? Today, the Senate committee debating health care legislation
is likely to vote on amendments to add a public option to Senator Max
Baucus's bill. Howard Kahn, the CEO of the nation's largest public
health plan, L.A. Care Health Plan, says the nation seems to be stuck
on an all-or-nothing approach, but he says there is a "third way."
"There's a compromise, in between one monolithic national public plan
and not having any public plan in the reform effort, and that's what
we've been trying to bring forward, a compromise position."
Kahn says the federal government is already a major player in health
care, with about 50 percent of the money spent on health care
nationally being spent by the federal government.
"Medicare, Medicaid, government employees, the Veterans Administration
- government's a major funder of health care already, so the discussion
really should be focused on how do we get the rest of the people
covered, and how do we keep the cost from going up so rapidly."
Kahn says health plans that work on a local level are more likely to be successful.
"We've been competitive for years against commercial competitors. It's
worked here in Los Angeles and it's worked in other counties around
California where there are a number of public plans operating locally."
Kahn suggests states offer incentives to create regional plans that are
either public, not-for-profits or cooperatives. Insurers argue that a
public option would give the government an unfair advantage and be able
to undercut insurance company prices and drive them out of business.
More information is at www.lacare.org